Todd McLellan came to San Jose in 2008-2009 and led the Sharks to the President’s Trophy his first year as head coach.
Ever since, he’s never looked back. He’s made the playoffs every single year he has been with the Sharks, and San Jose has consistently been a Stanley Cup contender.
But this year might be his best work yet. McLellan had to take a Sharks team riddled with injuries and has them battling for the Pacific Division lead. There are many coaches that could be considered for the Jack Adams trophy. McLellan should be one of them and in any other season, he might have won. But this season, despite him being worthy of it, I don’t see him being nominated. There are three coaches that come to mind that will be nominated instead.
First, there is Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. Even though Bylsma still had Sidney Crosby healthy for the entire year, the Penguins have the highest total number of games lost by players that would be in the starting lineup. They’ve lost crucial players like Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Paul Martin, and Kris Letang. They’ve also lost solid depth players like Beau Bennett and their starting goalie for the majority of last year’s playoffs, Tomas Vokoun. Despite the Sharks also losing players like Dan Boyle, Tomas Hertl, Raffi Torres, Brent Burns, and Logan Couture, they did not lose them for the amount of time the Penguins have, and the Penguins still ran away with the division. That is a testament to the work Bylsma has done with the Penguins.
Despite the Penguins having the most games missed due to injury, Bylsma is not the coach I would choose to win the Jack Adams. The Jack Adams trophy belongs to Mike Babcock. There is arguably no team with greater pressure than the Detroit Red Wings, who have made the playoffs 22 consecutive seasons, and are in position to make the playoffs again this year. Who has led the playoff push for the Red Wings? Has it been the key players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard? No, it has not. They have been led by Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening, and Danny Dekeyser. Then there is the biggest player for the Red Wings playoff push: Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist started the season with the Red Wings AHL affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins. Now, if the Red Wings play a game where Nyquist doesn’t score, people are shocked. While Datsyuk and Zetterberg have been out with injuries, he has single handily stepped up and taken over the Red Wings’ push to the playoffs, and it looks like they’re going to make it to the playoffs for the 23rd straight season. Mike Babcock has never won a Jack Adams trophy, and if he doesn’t win it this year with the roster he’s had to put together and the success they’ve had, he will never win the trophy.
However, despite the fact that the Jack Adams trophy should go to Babcock, the NHL will do the same thing they do every year, and give it to the coach who turned a team around on route to the NHL playoffs. In recent years it has been Paul MacLean of the Ottawa Senators, Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues, and Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes, all coaches who led their teams to breakout seasons. That is why the Jack Adams trophy will be won by Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Patrick Roy is totally deserving. He took the team who had the number one overall pick in the 2013 draft and turned them into a playoff team that will possibly finish ahead of the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the standings. But the only reason he will win it is due to the fact that he turned a team around. The only coaches who win the Jack Adams trophy are coaches that take a team that wasn’t in the playoffs and lead them to the playoffs.
The Jack Adams trophy is eerily similar to the Norris Trophy where the player who wins is not the best defenseman, but the defenseman with the most points in the NHL. For example, Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild was phenomenal last year, but the award went to PK Subban who had the most points for defenseman. That is why Patrick Roy will win the Jack Adams over Mike Babcock, and that is the same reason Sharks coach Todd McLellan will not win the Jack Adams trophy this year, or any year unless the Sharks miss the playoffs and come back the next season and make the playoffs.
Todd McLellan is one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League, but don’t expect him to bring home any hardware for it.